The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 02 January 2018
Genre: YA fantasy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
The Cruel Prince was one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2018. Released in January, it has already caused a stir among fans and newcomers to Holly Black’s books. I’ve never read any of her books before, so when The Cruel Prince arrived in my January FairyLoot box, I was intrigued.
Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.
And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.
Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
So just to get this out of the way: I hate books that feature the fae. I think the fae are super lame. They’re never as cruel or as frightening as they’re supposed to be — they always come off as cartoonish and ridiculous. Now, to be fair, I have only read two fae books: A Court of Thorns and Roses, which I hate with a fiery passion, and An Enchantment of Ravens, which I found incredibly disappointing. I figured that if anyone was going to get me to like the fae, it would be Holly Black, the Queen of Fae herself. And to my surprise, I did enjoy this book. It is far from perfect and I think it could have been a heck of a lot better, but I found it incredibly fun and entertaining.
I’m really struggling to write this review. I can’t quite come up with complete and thoughtful paragraphs on this, so I’m going to use bullet points.
- Our story centers on Jude, who wishes to fit in at the fae court. Her way of doing this is to become a knight, which she believes will grant her some authority and respect. Instead, she becomes a spy in a powerful household. Which means she can’t really tell anyone what she’s doing. Which means she can’t gain any authority or respect.
- Jude is a difficult character, which I actually really liked. She’s got a cunning streak a mile long and is selfish and pig-headed. Many of the decisions she made just didn’t make much sense to me. I get that she’s lost between worlds — she doesn’t really belong among mortals or fae — but it almost feels like she just cannot figure out what she wants.
- Without saying too much, the thing that sticks out the most is the fight she gets into toward the end — you probably know what I’m talking about if you’ve read this book. She doesn’t want to fight, but she ends up nearly killing someone for pretty much no reason. Why? Why, Jude?
- The plot of the book meanders so much that I can’t really get a firm grasp on what was supposed to happen. The actual plot takes up about 30% of the book while the remaining 70% is her fighting with Prince Cardan and his crew. There was so much here that was unnecessary and could have been cut out. I really wished we had more politics and subterfuge!
- The romance makes no sense. No sense!!! So little time is spent developing it and I just don’t think it was believable.
- Almost every character feels like a cardboard cutout. There’s so little development with side characters that they just have no real personality. They’re almost like stereotypes: the lovestruck teenage girl, the bully, the moustache-twirling villain (there are several of these), the disinterested stepmother. Even Jude herself has little development — she is very much the same person at the beginning of the book as she is at the end. Nothing really changes for her, she learns so little.
So in the interest of balancing this book review out a little, I want to include some things I really liked about the book (or else none of you will believe that I actually enjoy this).
- The Cruel Prince is an incredibly fast paced book that’s easy to read. If you’re looking for pure escapist fun, this is a good choice.
- Jude is a great example of an unlikable female character, which is something I find rare in YA and fantasy in general. She’s definitely not someone you should like, but I admire her ambition and ruthlessness. She could easily be the villain in another story.
- Although she’s technically a secondary character, Vivi has the best story line. I think I would have preferred this book to be about her! She’s got depth that no one else really gets and she’s maneuvering through an incredibly difficult position.
- I really like the way that the climax of the book comes together. I’d say more, but you know, spoilers. If we cut out about 70 pages of deadly teenage pranks and added more to the plot, this book would have been spectacular.
- The way the book sets up the rest of the trilogy seems to indicate that a lot of my pacing and plotting issues will resolve themselves. I’m hoping that we’ve got the background info out of the way and the next book will really pick up in terms of plot.
I initially gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, but it’s one that I really needed to think about before rating. While there was a lot that was messy about The Cruel Prince I think that the series as a whole is going to be worth a read.
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